Woman says she was right to hide grandson

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MARION, Ill. -- A Southern Illinois grandmother said Monday she hid her 6-year-old grandson and his mother in a crawl space in her home for two years during a custody dispute with the boy's father to keep the youngster safe.

Diane Dobbs, 51, spoke to "Good Morning America" from Marion. She's out on bond after being charged Friday with aiding and abetting.

Dobbs is accused of helping to hide her grandson, Richard "Ricky" Chekevdia, since his father was awarded temporary custody two years ago.

Ricky and his mother, 30-year-old Shannon Wilfong, vanished in November 2007. They were found Friday hiding in a small crawl space in Dobbs' two-story home by police who were responding to a tip. Wilfong is charged with felony child abduction and was being held on $42,500 bond.

Dobbs said Monday authorities haven't fully investigated allegations that Ricky's father, Mike Chekevdia, sexually abused him, and she was trying to protect the boy from his father. She said she doesn't plan to plead guilty.

"We were on our own and we had to do what we had to do and that was make sure our grandson was safe," Dobbs said.

Chekevdia, a 48-year-old former police officer who's a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, has denied any wrongdoing.

"I was investigated three times, and I complied with everybody's desires and wishes in those investigations, and every one of those investigations were unfounded," Mike Chekevdia said.

The boy has been staying with one of his father's relatives while state child-welfare workers continue to investigate the abuse claims.

Authorities have said the boy, who turns 7 on Sept. 14, was in good spirits and physically fit.

Dobbs said Ricky and his mother didn't live in the crawl space full time at her rural home in southern Illinois' Franklin County, about 120 miles southeast of St. Louis. She said the pair spent less than 5 minutes there during the past two years.

"My grandson had the run of the house, when we were outside we would go fishing, we would do weenie roasts, we've done fireworks on the Fourth of July, he's helped me plant my flower garden in the back," she said.

She said Wilfong had been home-schooling Ricky, who she described as a "very bright child."

"He's the light of my life," she said. "I've been there ever since that little boy was born."

No published telephone listing for Diane Dobbs could be found Monday by The Associated Press.

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